Denali 2011 – Day 4 – Riley Creek 2

Wednesday 8/24/2011 – Riley Creek (Unit 2), Denali National Park, AK

  • Total distance today: 6.53 mi
  • Total moving time: 5:30
  • Elevation: 4741ft ascent, max elevation 4952ft

We got up around 7:30-8am or so and went down to get our Bearvaults.  This had been our first night in the backcountry so we weren’t sure what to expect with regard to the Bearvaults.  They were completely untouched (or at least not moved at all).  We broke down camp and were out by 10:15am.

The weather this morning was overcast and we weren't sure if rain was coming

The view further up the hill and where we were headed. Note that you can't even see the top given all the clouds.

We started our journey this day very slowly – we went about 1/2 mi in about 2 hours since it was major bushwhacking.  Most was knee/waist height with some shoulder/head height.  I’m 6’5″ – so bushwhacking through head height stuff was pretty challenging.  It was slow, exhausting, and somewhat concerning since we wouldn’t have been able to see animals (bears, moose, caribou, etc) easily.  We kept repeating “Hey bear! Hey Bear!, No bear! No Bear”.  Bears are much more likely to avoid contact with humans when they know you’re approaching, and the human voice is much more effective at that than any artificial means.

Just happened to see a discarded set of antlers while we were bushwhacking - so clearly we were where animals did tread.

Here you can see some of the more *light* bushes we were whacking through. Throughout the rest of the trip we just called this "the red stuff". At least the colors were stunning (since we were there during the "fall" color-changing season)

Using my water filter to load up on water at a little stream we found. NO - I am not peeing in a tube. (I say that because some people have thought that with this picture!)

May not look like much, but this was such a blessing to have this little stream since we didn't think we'd see water for possibly another day.

After the bushwhacking, we had some ascending to do.  Once we left the trees/bushes – we got hit by some major wind.  At this point much of the overcast-ness had burned off and it was reasonably clear, and made for some beautiful vistas:

Brian heading up to join Dave and I shortly after we left the tree line

As Dave would say... "Gor-geous!"

Panorama of our vista

We stopped for lunch here:

Looking up the hill - we still had to ascend this little bit before getting to the ridge hiking.

At the top is where we hit the ridge we would follow for a while.  This was the first real ridge hiking that any of us had ever done.  We had to keep reevaluating our path – it was hard to visually distinguish lines and features on the map, but we got through it.  It was very windy on the ridge – it must’ve been 30mph or more.  We had to be very careful since on the leeward side sometimes was multi-thousand foot drop-offs and the ridge was narrow at times.  Narrow ridge + big drop-off + high winds = danger.

All bundled up

View from the start of the ridge

Brian taking a break

You can see the ridge we were hiking - this part was kinda tame compared to later in the day

Looking back on the ridge we had come up

Nice view from the top of the highest spot we got to that day (4900+ft). Dave's jacket seen here next too some scree.

Cannot say enough how much the GPS helped us!

Another view from the top of the first part of the ridge we had hiked.

As we progressed on the ridge hiking – we kept getting to spots where we would say “no way we’re getting up that!” and we just kept going and were able to get up every time.

God was very gracious and sovereign throughout the day.  No animal encounters, we had the small stream which provided much needed water, and He gave us a very beautiful day (which made visual navigation possible).

After the top peak that we hit – we still had a few miles to go.  It was mostly downhill with slight uphills.  We made camp near a small stream, had dinner and went to bed.  Our campsite this night wasn’t very level, but it was the only place we found and hopefully we’ll get good rest and not see any bears.  At this point we still hadn’t seen any bears or moose, and we were all pretty ok with that 🙂 .

Our campsite - the trees in the middle of the background are where the stream was. The hill in the distance is where we put our Bearvaults for the night.

Just before bed, Dave and I marked our planned path for tomorrow to get to Unit 4.  I read a bit of the Word before bed – I hadn’t had much of an opportunity to earlier this trip since we were always moving or just flat out exhausted at night.


Brian’s post for day 4 is here